The Komodo National Park is most famous for being home to the Komodo Dragon. There is plenty more to see here though, including much more wildlife and some great natural beauty spots. This Komodo Islands Travel Guide looks at the area, exploring what there is to see and sharing information about how to visit.
Seeing the Komodo Dragons is a major highlight for any trip to Indonesia. For many people this is the reason why they embark on the journey to this part of the world. However there is much more to the area than just the Dragons! This Komodo Islands Travel Guide covers the islands that make up the Komodo National Park in Indonesia. It shows you what there is to see here and why its worth a visit. It also covers the practicalities of getting here and gives you some tips and information about where to stay and joining a boat tour.
I have written this Komodo Islands Travel Guide based on my own experience of visiting the national park. It was a real highlight of the country of Indonesia for me. I had wanted to see the Komodo Dragons ever since I was a young kid, they were always really interesting to me. They always seemed like exotic creatures from another world that was so far away. So to get the opportunity to see them was a dream come true. I was really impressed with them and everything else that I saw here. I found the area to be really beautiful and fun to explore. I’ve also included some information on other things that I saw offered in the area. This is all explained in the section below covering how to visit the islands.
It should be noted that I did this by going from Labaun Bajo on Flores. You can also undertake longer boat trips to the island from Lombok, which I cover later in this Komodo Islands Travel Guide.
Komodo Islands Travel Guide – Exploring the Komodo National Park
The Komodo archipelago is found off the large island of Flores. The 3 largest islands here are Komodo, Rinca and Padar. The way to see the park is by boat, leaving from the town of Labuan Bajo or coming from Lombok. The town of Labuan Bajo is at the western end of the island of Flores, Indonesia. Lombok is further west, near to Bali.
Join a tour to see the islands (or charter a boat yourself if you have the cash!). A standard tour from Labuan Bajo includes 2 days with 1 night sleeping on the boat. This is what I did when I visited. There are also some that offer 3 days and 2 nights – these often include some diving. Though not exclusively, it depends on whose offering it! You can also do a day trip if pressed for time.
Taking a boat tour
There are so many operators in Labuan Bajo, you don’t really need to book a tour much in advance. I booked mine the day before though Bajo Nature Backpackers where I was staying.
This Komodo Islands Travel Guide recommends the 2 day 1 night option, its good value for money and allows you to see plenty of of the national park. I would suggest that the 3 day 2 night option is really for those who want to include a days diving as well.
The cost of a 2 day 1 night tour is between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Indonesian rupiah. This includes meals and should also include transport to the boat. Not that its far to walk mind!
What its like on the boat
There are generally two types of boat here. The standard small narrow ones cater for the majority of travellers, these usually have 3 crew members and fit 9 guests. These are basic, you sleep next to the other guests on the deck or roof on the ships mattress’s and with some blankets. The crew will cook your meal out the back. The toilet tends to be open to the sea, don’t expect luxury! This is the style of boat I was on, and thus the experience this Komodo Islands Travel Guide is based on. The larger boats are varied. They either focus on taking more guests, so the facilities are still basic just on a bigger scale. Or they focus on luxury, aimed at those with the cash to afford a private cabin etc.
In terms of food the boat tour I took cooked our main meals as rice, salad, tofu, fish, noodles and eggplant. For snacks they provided us banana’s, sometimes fried. Check the picture below for a better idea!
I did enjoy the food that we were given, it definitely added to what was a great experience. If you want some more variety though I recommend you take some dried food of your own. And ensure you bring lots of water, you will need it.
What you can see and do
When I took the 2 day 1 night boat tour we visited the following:
Day 1 – Rinca, Komodo, Pink Beach
Day 2 – Padar, Manta Point, Kanawa Island
This was a good itinerary that covered a nice variation of things. Most tours will offer these places, the order varies of course so they don’t get too crowded. As I stayed the night on the boat it also included seeing a great sunset and sunrise too! Now as part of this Komodo Islands Travel Guide we will take a look each of these stops and what they entailed.
It is important to note that the Komodo National park has an entrance fee, paid at either Rinca or Komodo. You also need to pay a fee for the rangers – this is not negotiable. The Komodo Dragons are dangerous creatures, they have attacked and killed humans in the past. The Rangers really are there for your safety as much as for your money! As long as you stick with them and do as they say though you will be fine. Check when you book the tour what the current entrance fee is. There has been talk of it being raised so I have decided not to put a current number here. Confirm it with your tour operator before you go. Be sure to take cash to pay for these fee’s as well. There are ATM’s in Labuan Bajo if your coming from there.
This was the first stop on the boat tour I took, and the first opportunity to see the Komodo Dragons. They live on both this island and the island of Komodo itself. Accompanied by a Ranger you spent some time walking around the park area here. The path starts by passing through the Rangers living area, where they have offices and a ‘kitchen’. Komodo Drgaons often linger here, they have an excellent sense of smell and can be drawn to it.
Heading into the island you can try to spot more Komodo Dragons in the wild, as well as other wildlife and interesting plant life. Rinca is home to many monkeys, and you can see plenty roaming the island. On my trip we also saw a wild buffalo, deer and several different types of birds. The Rangers will point things out to you as you go. They have a good knowledge of the island and are able to give a lot of information about it and the animals that live here.
This is of course the island that gave the National Park and the Dragons its name! And it was the 2nd stop on the tour that I took part in. Here again you walk around the park with a Ranger (or in our case it was 2). We saw several Komodo Dragons here, we were quite lucky in that regard apparently. There are no monkeys living on this island, but there is a fair bit of other wildlife. We saw deer, a snake (unsure what breed but our Ranger was worried enough to stop us until it passed!), birds and wild pigs.
To give some idea about the Komodo Drgaons population, there are said to be about 3000 in the wild. 1,700 of these are on Komodo, 1,300 on Rinca. There are said to be some on other islands in the area, but not many. In terms of food they only eat meat and will pretty much eat any pray. Deer, pigs and monkeys all included! They eat their prey whole, including the bones!
This stop is actually named Pantai Merah and is part of Komodo Island. Its located away from the visiting area where you travel to see the Dragons, you reach it by boat. The beach actually does look pink, an effect caused by a marine organism called foraminifera. Snorkelling is popular here, you have the opportunity to spot turtles and different types of fish. Its a good spot for sunset too, on the tour I undertook we stopped here for the night.
Sunrise on the boat
I’ve included this as part of this Komodo Islands Travel Guide as it was one of my favourite parts of my own trip. Sunrise and sunset in this part of the world are both incredible and a boat moving through the Komodo National park is a great place to see one from.
The island of Padar is the third largest in the Komodo National Park, and has a breathtaking viewpoint. The climb can be a bit tough, especially in the heat. But the view really is worth it! Make sure you take plenty of water with you.
This is the name for a place in the sea surrounding the island which is frequented by Manta Rays. You have the opportunity here to go snorkelling and see the Manta Rays up close! For me this was really amazing. Along with seeing the Dragons and view from Padar i’d say this was a major highlight of my trip. Of course just as a disclaimer you can’t be guaranteed to see these Manta Rays. They move around the open sea’s as they please after all. This point just happens to be one they like to visit a lot. No doubt your boat crew will do their best to show you them, they want you to enjoy you experience after all. Because then you go and tell other travellers about it, like I am writing this Komodo Islands Travel Guide!
The last stop on the tour I took, this island is another good snorkelling spot. Its also good for relaxing on the beach though there is little shade! There are very clear waters here, hence the snorkelling popularity. You can even wade in standing up and see starfish on the surface near to the beach.
Please note: There are other stops that are covered by other tours. The ones this Komodo Islands Travel Guide lists are pretty standard for the ‘2 day 1 night’ tours. But you will find that longer tours will include other places too. If your interested in doing longer I recommend you shop around in Labaun Bajo and see what you can find.
Komodo Islands Travel Guide – Getting here and practical information
Getting to Labuan Bajo
As mentioned, the town on Flores to take a boat tour of the Komodo National Park from is Labuan Bajo. This town in western Flores can be reached by plane on domestic Indonesian flights. Several operators fly here including Wings Air, Garuda Indonesia and Nam Air. Denpasar on Bali is the most common airport to fly to and from here. It’s also the closest big international airport.
You can also come here overland from other parts of Flores. There are airports at Maumere and Ende in Eastern Flores, with bus links to the Labaun Bajo as well as tours offered. Take into account this is a long journey, you will likely need to set aside a couple days at least for it.
From Lombok, the Gili Islands or Bali?
It is also possible to take a boat tour from the islands of Bali, Gili and Lombok. In fact the trips from Bali and Gili will often take you to Lombok first, and then to the Komodo Islands. From Lombok this is normally a 4 day boat trip which then ends in Labuan Bajo. The best way to book a tour is whilst you are actually there with a local operator. Try asking in backpacking hostels to see if they recommend any. I don’t recommend booking online as that is always more expensive and open to fraud. Its better to book direct with a tour operator, or at least through a hostel/guesthouse.
Where to stay and where to eat in Labuan Bajo
Labuan Bajo is really set for up for travellers, tourism is the main source of income for the town. So there are plenty of places to stay and lots of places to eat.
Hostels and Hotels
I stayed in the Bajo Nature Backpackers hostel when I visited here, and it is a decent option. The dorms were large but there was plenty of curtains to give privacy. There is loads of other accommodation here along the main street and up on the hill too. It varies from backpacker style dorms to luxury hotels, there is plenty to choose from. I’d recommend staying along the main street if your on foot, then you won’t have far to go to restaurants or to the shops. Its named ‘Jalan Soekarno Hatta’ – Jalan meaning street!
There are a range of options here including both Indonesian food and Western Food.
Warung Mama is this Komodo Islands Travel Guide’s tip for the best local food here, you order rice or noddles and a selection of portions. As well as meat (such as chicken) there are several vegetarian options including tofu, tempeh and eggplant. They also do good juice drinks as well. Rafael’s Kitchen is another good cheap option mainly focused on rice and noodle dishes. It’s right next to Bajo Nature Backpackers hostel and you get a discount if your staying there.
In terms of western food La Cucina is a very popular Italian restaurant here, and it’s good too. Expect pasta and pizza dishes as well as sandwiches, bruschetta and Mediterranean snacks. And the Mexican restaurant Bajo Taco offers some great meals as well. tacos obviously offered, along with nachos, burritos and enchiladas . Both these places have great views out towards the sea too! Mediterraneo Restaurant is also a good Mediterranean themed restaurant that I recommend if you want pizza or pasta.
What else is there in Labaun Bajo?
Diving is the other major attraction here. Whilst the boat tours are the number one tourist activity the town operates, diving is a close second. Most tour agencies doing the boat tours will also do diving courses. If its something you are interested in shop around and see what you can find.
There are some overland tours offered, generally aimed at groups rather than solo travellers. This is because the price is always by car rather than for an individual, so factor that in if your thinking about it. I haven’t been myself but a lot of them go overland to Ende or Maumere in eastern Flores and end there. You are looking at at least 3 or 4 days for these tours due to the amount of ground they cover.
Labuan Bajo is also a good place to stock up on supplies if you need anything. Here you will find several shops aimed at travellers selling things like bags and food as well as souvenirs. There are ATMs here and a couple of big convenience stores.
Thanks for reading this Komodo Islands Travel Guide!
The featured image for this Komodo Islands Travel Guide post is a Komodo Dragon walking though the forest on Komodo Island. I was very happy to be able to witness that.